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Helping siblings adjust and finding our “new normal”

One question I get most from friends and family is, “SO…how is Frank adjusting?” They of course ask about the others two–but it’s Frank whose birth order has changed the most. The older two became “big” sister and brother again…but Frank became “big brother” while also giving up his role as baby. SO…how is he adjusting REALLY? Is there a way to prepare younger ones for a new sibling–specifically a new adoptive sibling that obviously doesn’t nap as much as a newborn (aka–taking up more of his mommy time?) I’ll be honest; each child is STILL adjusting and just as they would need to adjust with the birth of a newborn…I think there is a bit more adjustment with a new one who is awake more and with one that no one else but mommy and daddy holds…at first. I’ll also add that every house is different especially if you have older, older kids who “get it” a bit more—and this will be an on-going process for us in the time ahead. SO…for NOW what does our house REALLY look like?

Ok–so just for your pure entertainment I’ll share a really FUNNY moment at our house. I’ll also tell you that this is NOT the new normal and our children really aren’t doing this ALL the time. But I will say that Frankie-baby DOES want to do things like this AT LEAST once a day…some times several times a day…

(Special note: YOU may not think this clip is funny—but one thing you will learn when you invite transition of any kind into your family–is that you HAVE to laugh at the little things…and some days…at everything. And this regression–I know is normal and I’ll venture out to even say healthy just to make myself feel good;)…and I just laugh at it and remind them afterwards that they are BIG kids and can be such big helpers:)

SO…do we encourage this? NO, we don’t. BUT we also don’t make Isaac’s toys (aka Frank’s old toys) off limits. And if our little girl who likes to play baby and pretend wants to regress a bit for 10 minutes during the day–I laugh, but I let her. I also give her lots of opportunities throughout the day to help by being a big girl. I’ve tried the same tactic with Frank–but that’s a “no go”. He isn’t ready to be the big brother—YET…so we are letting him adjust at his own pace. So, if it means being a wild man in the Jump-a-Roo here and there—we absolutely let him. Parker and Laney both asked to try it and we also let them but they said it was no fun for them—so thankfully they figured that out for themselves;)

I ran a search a little while ago on siblings and helping them adjust. I have to confess–I was cracking up at their suggestions of reading books to them about adoption and a new baby…suggestions to remind them how important they are and how their support and help will be needed. Whoever wrote those articles probably didn’t have my 4 kids 5 and under in mind. I can read them books and give them a pep talk–but really our actions and being consistent with our past routine and affection is what is helping most right now.

The hardest part of now for us–is we are in the cocoon stage of being at home and bonding as a family. Each of our children REALLY need EXTRA love and care EACH day—and our new one needs even more extra love and care. I can honestly say I am at a stage in my life right now where I am desperate for God’s strength, power and outpouring love each day–minute by minute. There is not a down moment in my day–and I blog only when children are napping (Frank and Isaac are napping right now–and my bestfriend picked up Laney and Parker for a playdate!) The house is often a mess–when normally it’s clean. And I’m “choosing my battles” in a new way right now by choosing not to worry about laundry and crumbs…and just meet the needs of my little ones. Honestly, there is very little I think you can really do to PREPARE preschoolers for a new one—but there are a few things that I think have really helped. These may seem obvious–but trust me…as your house gets crazier these get HARDER and it’s helpful to remind myself of these daily and make conscience efforts to focus on these…

1. We have kept all the little ones on their same schedule. Frank is still napping at the same times each day while we work to get Isaac on a healthy nap schedule…his sweet brain needs that boost! Parker and Laney STILL have their rest times each afternoon. They don’t “have” to nap–but they do need to find something quite to do. (I have discovered the HUGE importance of boundaries with the older ones right now and how keeping these boundaries consistent helps them feel more secure, loved and even important to us.) It also means staying consistent with discipline and continueing to breath and remain calm dispite the rise in the craziness:)

2. Explain changes in the schedule to the ones who can understand (even if it’s easier to just say “I’ll be RIGHT back.”). There WILL be MANY times that something requires your immediate attention–and the other kiddos can interpret this as “more important”. If you have other children at home with you all day, you will have to explain why the new one needs little things like naps and why you need to go put him down without everyone else’s help as a baby who needs to rest is NOT going to want to go down with a crew of kids helping put him down. This may all seem obvious—but I can’t assume that my little ones understand–and it has REALLY helped a lot to walk them through the LITTLE things. This means–A LOT of talking to explain what you need to do, what the new one needs and what your older ones need to do while they wait. For example–when Isaac Temesgen is over-stimulated and needs me to go to his nursery just sit OR when it is his nap time, I explain to the older kids how Isaac Temesgen isn’t used to having so much noise and action going on (trust me…we have noise and action here!) and how he needs some down time OR that it’s time for his nap. I give them something to do before exiting, and then I tell them I’m going to go sit with him and help him get some rest. I affirm that I will be right back. (The BIGGEST challenge for me here is baby Frank (20 month old) because he doesn’t always like the activity and wants to come with mommy instead. If he is quite, he can come too–but most of the time he is NOT and I have to resort to FOOD for him…you do what you have to do…and some times it’s Vanilla Wafers;). I really didn’t anticipate how HARD this part would be—and I’ve handled what I feel like is a lot–but this has proved to be the hardest and most stressful and it does help to explain and help them understand the little things.

3. We make a strong effort to have one on one time with each child DAILY. Now, this doesn’t mean TAKING them some where–it means us making an effort to be alone with each child daily to spend time playing with them and always affirming our love for them. This is a HUGE transition–and it requires more work than adding a newborn to the family–and it is important to us to let each of our children know how much we love them and how valued they are in our family. We are having to get creative–some times it means a date to the neighborhood pool while one parent stays home with the others…and some times it is just a simple book in their room and asking each child to look in your eyes while you tell them how much I love him/her.

There are of course many other things we do and you can do and have done–but for us this is helping us and our children transition. This added effort each day also means we are completely exhausted at the end of each day. I keep wondering if “completely exhausted” is our new normal;). BUT Richard and I continue to laugh through it and remind ourselves how much stinkin’ fun holidays will be as the kids get older with a big family. I mean, how much fun is a basketball tourny or ultimate freesbie without a bunch of kids right?! I was laughing this morning watching Frank play air hockey by himself after the older two left with my friend and Isaac Temesgen was already napping. YES, it was calm–but it was quite…and not as much fun:)

AND…it’s okay to be flexible and NOT by the books either. If you are my friend on Facebook, you know we broke out of the cocoon yesterday to head to the park! I knew our church park would be empty–and we just all needed fresh air (ME ESPECIALLY) and it was absolutely HOT but so good for the soul. AND it was Isaac Temesgen’s VERY FIRST SWING time!!! Here are a few pictures from us cheating the cocoon;)…
Frank did NOT want to have a picture made because I asked them for a pic BEFORE playing!!! See…Isaac has never seen a playground so he didn’t know what he was missing for a pic! But FRANK…he was like LET ME GO!!!

Then it was time for us to put little Isaac Temesgen in the swing! It about swallowed him whole…but he held on and LOVED every minute!

My FIRST swing ride at 11 months…
Just think about all the little ones MUCH older than Isaac Temesgen who haven’t gotten to swing and go to the park YET. What JOY it is to grow your family through adoption and see how God makes your heart BURST with joy and love for another…AND how it is HIM who gives you the desire, strength and love for each and every moment as you follow Him!

P.S. I need to post pics of HAPPY Frankie baby THIS morning. RIGHT after he got a shiner from Parker spinning him around. YET…he was all smiles when I gave him cereal WITH milk in it. Food is definitely the way to that boy’s heart! I’ll come back and post a happy pic of Frank as soon as it downloads…I need to publish this post though so I can finish my MUCH needed coffee before any babies wake up! Isaac Temesgen tossed and turned all night–and although HE was sleeping…this mommy was looking over him and checking on him every 2 seconds. AND THEN P-man came in and asked if I could lay down with him at THREE in the morning. Not normal…I guess he just needed some extra TLC. SO…off to have another cup of Ethiopian coffee and wait for one of my babies to wake:)

Have a GREAT weekend!

Dawn - July 16, 2010 - 2:54 pm

Changes affect everyone…sounds like you are doing great though. We always ask our kids if they want to play with or have baby milk etc.- It is hilarious to see them want it for a few minutes and then change their mind. It is all a part of adjusting. Never read any books on that, but pretty sure we have seen most everything 🙂 he he he
Love the swing pic 🙂

Erin - July 16, 2010 - 3:02 pm

This post was so encouraging to me! We are about to have 4 kiddos 6 and under, and it is great to see what it will be like and things to think through, pray through, and trust God for now as we wait to bring our baby home! Thank you for being honest!

Lara - July 16, 2010 - 3:20 pm

Great suggestions! We just got approved by AGCI and are newly “paper pregnant” so I’m soaking in all the advice I can. My Ellie will be almost two when our babe comes home, so I’m sure it will be an adjustment for her.

Sally - July 16, 2010 - 3:20 pm

I found your blog a little while ago and love reading as you share your heart and all that God is doing in you and your family. I was wondering about the “cocoon” time that you are referring to. I understand that you are talking about bonding time as a family and intentionally staying home to let it happen. We are in the process of adopting our daughter from India. I was just wondering how long you are going to cocoon and how you made this decision. Did you get this idea from a book or other families? Just wondering… Thank you, Sally

Jennifer - July 16, 2010 - 9:07 pm

Frank and Isaac are absolutely the funniest duo in your photos. 🙂 Frank is full of personality, and Isaac’s eyes just make me melt. Your older two are precious too, but Frank just makes me laugh. What a sweet family.

Jenny - July 16, 2010 - 10:23 pm

Adorable video:) So true about not really being able to prepare little ones for a sibling. Our Piper is a little over 2 and the only thing she really understands about us bringing home her baby sister is that she will probably be scared of fireworks;0). She always says, “Joleigh will be scared of fireworks, she’ll cry”. It’s so sweet.

Constantly praying for you! and thanks for your comments on my blog.

Rory - July 16, 2010 - 11:15 pm

Great post! And I love the video–nothing wrong with kids having fun!:) We’re expecting our fourth in November, and anytime we’ve added a new little one, my “bigger” girls (6,3,1) all want to try out the baby equipment.:) I think you’re a wonderful mom and doing great with this whole cocooning stage! I go a little stir crazy when forced to stay at home all day, and I admire your determination to stick with it–while still bending the rules a bit, when needed! Love to your family!

Shannon - July 17, 2010 - 2:02 am

I definitely need to bookmark this one to remind me of the tips for keeping all our monkeys happy when we bring our new one home. Love the swing pictures…he melts me! And of course I love the monkey tee too!:)